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Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection CS4

December 9th, 2008 by James in Miscellaneous Reviews

There’s a point in software development where fewer new features or innovations arrive and developers begin to concentrate on tweaking, thereby making it more efficient, faster, and secure. There are no longer any real “fins” to add, and so software engineers dive under the hood and begin to tweak for performance. Such is the case with the plethora of software known as the Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection CS4. Make no mistake; the ACSMC CS4 is an amazing collection of software. And if creative types are looking to invest in a new suite for their creative needs, CS4 is certainly one to consider when cleaning out the software budget for the year.

But will CS3 users find it difficult to justify upgrading to the new collection? Is there enough new performance upgrades to justify the hefty price tag? In today’s economy, I have a hunch that the answer will be to wait. There’s simply not enough WOW there for experienced users unless they are so into performance tweaking that they want to drop a few grand to get better and more seamless integration.

Although each program can be purchased individually, a master collection can not only be more cost effective, but looking at the lineup, it’s difficult not to view it as impressive. The master collection includes: Adobe InDesign CS4 ($699/$199), Adobe Photoshop CS4 ($999/$349), Adobe Illustrator CS4 ($599/$199), Adobe After Effects CS4 ($999/299), Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 ($799/$299), Adobe Flash Professional CS4 ($699/$199), Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 ($399/$199), Adobe InCopy CS4 (Incl), Adobe Version Cue CS4 (incl), Adobe Contribute CS4 ($199/$99), Adobe Soundbooth CS4 (199/$79), and Adobe Fireworks CS4 ($299/149). A collection like this can be especially attractive for web professionals show seek to widen their reach by incorporating podcasting, video podcasting, flash web development, and more. And when one considers that the price of these programs piecemeal comes to nearly $6,000, the $2500 collection retail price seems to be a bargain (the upgrade price is $900).
But when buys a collection, one has to determine if the tweaks under each hood represent the whole value, or should one seek to upgrade each program individually?

Well, the strong point of the Master Collection is its improved integration. Users can make changes to a Photoshop file while maneuvering it in Dreamweaver. There is improved file manipulation in 3d space. And it seems that in general, everything works faster. Additionally, there is more precision in programs like InDesign, where users can precisely place items by using “smart guides” which provide alignment indicators at the click of a mouse button – much better than the habit of “eyeballing” that most designers have developed by habit.

Video producers should scream hallelujah that Adobe has finally included a separate Media encoder utility with Premiere which can batch encode in multiple formats. Users can preview and import footage that has already been on the PC thanks to the new Media Browser. And then there’s the expect support of AVCHD, which has taken the HD Camcorder world by storm. Other formats supported now include P2, XDCam/HD and EX. And what is really cool is that format support also integrates all the metadata, which will make developers and producers very happy in order to encode in the field and organize in the studio.

But the crown jewel of the collection is Photoshop. Always has been, always will be. And of all the programs worth upgrading in the collection, Photoshop CS4 is well worth the price. First off, Adobe knocked down a few walls and completely redesigned the workspace to clean up window clutter and make the environment more efficient. Called the “Application Frame,” the new look means all tools, brushes, layers, windows and more can be dragged and dropped, all at once, to the side or even to another monitor and give photo artists more real estate for image editing. Additionally, multiple images can be managed thanks to tabbed browsing, rather than clicking on minimize to get a picture out of the way and max to bring it back. And my personal favorite is the new Application Bar, which gives you access to extras, zooms, canvas rotation and more with a single mouse click.

Then there’s 3D modeling, a quantum leap in Photoshop that allows for the taking of a 2D photograph and manipulate it in a 3D environment. That’s trick.

There are other improvements under the hood. Soundbooth now has restore points and nondestructive multi track editing. Illustrator has a revamped interface – adding the same Application Frame enjoyed by Photoshop and tabbed documents for easy management from image to image, and an isolation mode to manipulate a single path without affecting others. Dreamweaver finally has a Live View feature for real time preview in WebKit and a property inspector for verifying and fixing faulty CSS scripting. A serious addition though is InContext editing, which makes simple yet tedious design changes easier for wed designers to incorporate.

CONCLUSION: All in all, there’s a lot in the Master Collection. And as stated, some programs can probably get away without an upgrade while some upgrades can’t be without. It may be that cumulatively, there are enough tweaks and improvements to make an all in one user want the whole magilla. And if you’re just getting into the game, this is the one collection you can’t do without.

But certainly going with a piecemeal approach to updating isn’t a sin if one uses some, but not all of the programs with everyday use; especially if one is of those early adopters who want power for editing their snapshots and home videos and doesn’t need the spate of professional applications included.

Cost is around $2500 / $899 upgrade from Adobe.

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